Should Spouses Share Financial Responsibility in a Marriage?

A financial plan avoids struggles.

A financial plan avoids struggles.

Money is not really the root of all evil, but it certainly can cause discord in a marriage when the two spouses don't have the same financial philosophies. If you were both independent for a while, you established your own spending habits and preferences. You may want to keep them that way. On the other hand, a marriage is a commitment to each other and to the marriage. It makes sense that if you're going to join your future, you should share financial responsibility, whether or not you set up a joint bank account.

The Dreaded Budget

Don't look at a budget as a straightjacket prohibiting you from getting what you want. Look at a budget as a way to agree on what is financially important to each of you and both of you. Most couples can't have everything they want. There's just not enough money to provide for a vacation, retirement, kid's college fund, a house, car and lifestyle of the rich and famous. The budget keeps you on track.

Who Pays For What

There is no right or wrong method of sharing financial responsibility. You could decide to prorate household expenses based on how much each of you earns. If the woman of the family earns 60 percent of the total income, she's responsible for 60 percent of the bills. What she does with the rest of her income is hers alone to decide. An alternative is to combine both incomes. Set aside an allowance for each of you to spend however you wish and then trade off the bill-paying chore from the joint account. One month it's your turn; the next month it's your spouse's turn.

Credit Reports and Scores

Surprisingly, when you marry, your credit scores don't merge. Each of you retains a separate report and score. The impact of how your spouse handles her finances hits when you need to merge your incomes to qualify for a home or other major purchase. Lenders base their approval or denial on the lowest credit score, and that's what is used to assign an interest rate as well. So while your credit scores remain independent, each of you shares in the responsibility for obtaining a home mortgage.

Spendthrift Versus Tightwad

Trouble can raise its head when a spendthrift marries a tightwad. One of you has a less than responsible attitude toward money and paying bills; if the credit card doesn't get paid this month, you'll pay it off next month. The other doesn't like to let the bills have a moment's rest. They come in one day and are paid and sent out the next day. The trick is to have the responsible spouse pay the bills from the common account while the other spouse agrees to stick to the budget.

About the Author

Katie Jensen's first book was published in 2000. Since then she has written additional books as well as screenplays, website content and e-books. Rosehill holds a Master of Business Administration from Arizona State University. Her articles specialize in business and personal finance. Her passion includes cooking, eating and writing about food.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images